Wicksteed Park

21 June 2006

Relaxing at Wicksteed Park back in 2006 - but it wasn't all fun and games: prepare to be detrained!

Wicksteed Park started out back in 1913 as an open space set up by Charles Wicksteed, owner of a local Kettering engineering company, as a safe open space to be enjoyed by both his employees and other local families. Under the watchful eye of the Wicksteed Village Trust, it has grown from these humble beginnings into a visitor attraction with over 1.25million people passing through its gates each season.

Welcome and, in case you didn't see it, welcome

We arrived at the park around 11:30 and went to sort out writstbands - a bargain at £10 for adults while children ('s parents) have to pay £16.

The first thing that hits you about the park is its quintessential Englishness. While most theme parks around the country have an overbearing American-commercialised atmosphere to varying degrees, Wicksteed feels very much like the country parks of old that we read our ancestors so enjoyed.

While there are sidestalls and concessions, there are no subtle forces pressuring you to buy. Amongst the rides are a boating lake, a sandpit and a fishing lagoon. Visitors are assumed to have enough sense to avoid the park's train that no protective fencing needs to be placed around the railway track.

Perhaps most English of all, everything closes for lunch

This year is a special year for Wicksteed: it marks the 90th anniversary of the Trust and the 75th anniversary of the park's railway. The Waterchute, designed and built by Charles Wicksteed, also celebrates its 80th anniversary.

This is one of only three remaining examples of Waterchutes in the UK

Riders climb up to the top of a tower and board the boat, which then rolls down a slope and into the water below

The Waterchute was the first mechanical ride installed in the park

The sign outside the ride shows how little has changed during its 80 years of operation

The world of amusement rides has moved on a lot since 1926, but the Waterchute remains one of the most popular attractions at Wicksteed.  It's brilliant to see the grandfather of the log flume, the dingy (sic) slide, the Hopkins shoot-the-chute, the Intamin river plunge and just about every other type of water ride still entertaining park visitors with a simple slope and a bit of rope.

The self-propelled cycle monorail

It's tough pedalling around corners!

Wicksteed is the theme park duck capital of the UK

Another ride you don't often see around these parts are the Nautic Jets - The boats are pulled to the top of the rail and then released. A small hill at the bottom makes them leap up into the air before crashing down and skimming along the surface of the lake.

While the Lakeside is home to the water rides, Wicksteed's Arena area hosts some of the park's larger attractions including a go kart track and two rollercoasters

In what must have been an incredible spark of inspiration, the park named the larger rollercoaster Roller Coaster

It's a standard non-looping Pinfari, but not nearly as rough as other examples

Even though it was a quiet day, they were still running with three trains: take note other parks naming no names Thorpe Park

The other coaster was a small Zierer Tivoli (my current favourite type of kiddie coaster) called Ladybird

One of the new rides for 2006 was Satellite.  It's a strange cross between a Matterhorn and an Enterprise, complete with a ride cycle that must have lasted a couple of hours.

A more traditional Paratrooper completes the line-up in the Arena

The penultimate area on our tour of the park is the Fairground.  There guests find a small chairoplanes, dodgems and a classic astroglide right next to the first UK Rockin' Tug installation.  It's a great area of the park for photo taking.  Looking through the pictures I took, I can't understand how I managed to forget to take a single one in the Fairground.  Oh well, on to the Playground area instead:

The only operational twin boat pirate ship in Europe

A close up of the aforementioned twins

Great example of apostrophe usage! "It's all happening here" "Northants' Leading Leisure Attraction" "What's on?" "Car Rallys" "Santa's Express".  This sign is ridiculous!  At least they got It's A Knockout right.  Time to contact the Apostrophe Protection Society.  (Just waiting for the first person to spot an error in one of my trip report's now.  Come on, you didnt miss it did you?  What about that one?)

According to the map this is a Surprise New Attraction for 2006.  The construction fences visible surround the tree - perhaps the paint on the leaves hasn't dried yet.

A traditional carousel with the chance to sit on top of a horse or a cockerel. (Yes I did clean up that caption)

Wicksteed Park Railway has been taking guests around the lake for 75 years

I guess 76 years was too much to ask.  We made it around about a third of the circuit before the train lost its air supply.

We had to wait for the park's minibus to come and rescue us

All the passengers were "detrained" down a set of steps ready to get the minibus back to the top of the park

Everybody's response was typically English - stoical to the end

The train breakdown merely provided a bit of entertainment to end the day rather than being an annoyance.  Maybe we all felt that way because of the relaxing atmosphere Charles Wicksteed's park still holds nearly a century after it was first conceived.  After visiting I can see why others have suggested it would make a great venue for an ECC AGM at some stage.  While it is obviously not the place to go for high-adrenaline thrill rides, it has more than enough to occupy a lazy day.  I'll go as far as to say it has provided my favourite UK theme park day this season.

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